All the voices
“A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult.” – Melinda Gates
Companies love dashboards. The idea of progress, of something to announce, is like a drug. Naturally, companies use data and dashboards to measure diversity. With one click, we can see how many people of what origin, education and sexual identity are employed anywhere within that company. What those dashboards can’t tell you, no matter what your amazing PowerBI skillz (sic) may be, is the actual effectiveness and impact of that diversity down to the team or individual level. Data and dashboards struggle with the intangible, with context. (I say this with all due respect to data scientists and my “blue” colleagues.) Dashboards struggle to tell you if all those amazing voices that the company has invested so much in recruiting are actually being heard. This is the nuance of inclusion.
This is where checking the box on the dashboard stops and the application of the sought-after differing points of views begins. And honestly, this is where so many teams fail. The representation is in the room, but the team culture hasn’t evolved, the manager is still talking at people, the environment isn’t functioning. The loudest voice still stands out. Suggestions are quickly brushed aside until repeated by another more well-known contributor. Questions are directed at the wrong person. And then people just shut down, go back to their old ways, and that highly sought-after talent leaves. Oh well, she wasn’t a good fit anyway.
The pressure on groups to produce results quickly isn’t going away. This intangible nuance of hearing all voices is easily pushed aside in the name of speed since it can be very difficult to measure. Worse yet, incorporating all the voices can actually slow things down at first, while in the end making the output so much better. How to show that the end justifies the means?
I propose that the best way to measure something is to start with a remarkable subset.
Enter the #msdyn365 community at 365 Saturday. For me, it started in Dublin. Actually, it started way before then, it just became more deliberate in Dublin thanks to the event organizers (looking at you, Janet and Raz) then took further shape in London and most recently solidified in Glasgow. At these all day events (on a Saturday, just like the name implies), informal groups of women at various stages of career gathered for an hour under the umbrella of Women in Technology (#wit), not quite sure what to expect.
Each session has been different, because as with many things, the conversation is a result of the sum of the amazing diverse parts. Topics varied, yet it all came down to one overarching theme: communication. Whether that be the how, the when or the why of when to use our voices. We talked about #confidencehacks, about how to establish ourselves without crossing a line that makes us uncomfortable (and practicing not caring about making others uncomfortable), about connecting and expanding our networks, and then most importantly we talk about amplification – how we can help others’ voices be heard. All voices, not just female.
Note: There are so many other cultural considerations here, for which I lack a point of reference. There is also a whole discussion to be had about how people consume, digest and respond to information. For example, the work culture that I grew up in was as follows: get in a room, review a PowerPoint, have a passionate discussion where the loudest voice usually wins, determine next steps, assign actions items, repeat. That format doesn’t work for all. What about the voice of the incredible introvert in the room that needs time to digest the info, consider all sides, and then voice their opinion?
And there is the other amazing thing about our #msdyn365 community. Others want to know how they can help. Sure, I was teased about “super-secret lunches” by male colleagues. I saw that for exactly what it was – curiosity and a sincere wish for dialogue. Why is it necessary to have a “womens’ anything”? Shouldn’t it just be about hiring the best person for the job? How should we feel about this? We all treat each other with respect, right? Isn’t it up to individuals to make themselves heard?
Truth is, I agree with everything above. Inclusion, by its intent, is about everyone. And therefore, everyone has a responsibility to feed this culture and in the end everyone will benefit. We all can and should help amplify the voices of others. What I love about getting small groups of women together is that the coaching and dialogue that happens in a really safe environment then goes out into the diverse world and multiplies. It starts with a subset. Never underestimate the ripple effect of small actions.
Fifty percent (50%) of the speakers at 365Saturday Scotland identified as female. Fifty percent. That is crazy insane goodness. It did not just happen. This was the result of a community (led by Marc, Janet, Claire , Iain and so many others) rallying to make sure that opportunities were presented and seized, that a safe place was created and maintained, and that voices were heard. Shouldn’t that just happen naturally? Yes, ideally someday the flywheel will be spinning with such momentum that this will be the case (oh, and 50% of the attendees will also be women… work to do there as well). Then the focus will become how to maintain and feed that system. The moment you take your eye of something, you risk losing the muscle memory. Omission by unintentional oversight does not remove responsibility.
There is a meme about equity vs equality running around our social media feeds. The one that show people of different heights trying to watch a baseball game over a fence. The size of the boxes they are standing on depicts the difference between being treated equally (same sized box) and equitably (different sized boxes raising all to the same level). The lesser known version has a twist – it shows what it would look like if there was no fence at all.
This is the nuance of inclusion. This is how the #msdyn365 community is working to remove the fence. It starts with these conversations, these opportunities. Listening to all the voices takes time and deliberate effort. This community is all in.
Raise your voices. 🙂